Back to Facility Manager
out how facilities across the country
are saving the earth’s resources —
while saving big bucks in the process.
By Kelly Pedone
As Kermit the Frog once sang, “It isn’t
easy being green.” But the desire to conserve energy and limit waste has
many facility managers and designers turning toward “green” initiatives
that help save the earth while providing huge financial benefits.
“You don’t have to be a tree-hugging environmentalist to get on board
with environmentally friendly programs,” says Kimberly Hosken, director
of new construction for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED),
a program from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). “You just have
to not want the landfills to overflow and have a desire to conserve
water and energy.”
In the past 10 years or so, many facilities throughout the country have
begun implementing practices that help preserve Mother Earth. For some
facilities, like Atlanta’s Gwinnett Center, landscaping is comprised of
native plants that require less water to maintain. Reliant Park in
Houston uses grass trays for some of its parking areas, creating a
“living” parking surface that reduces the urban heat factor.
Other facilities go so far as to change the vendors who supply employee
uniforms, implement rigid recycling programs, or use earthfriendly
serving materials and energy efficient power systems. Others take it a
step further and work toward creating a facility, inside and out, aimed
at protecting the planet. “
Everyone needs to do his part to foster a better environment. Knowing
that we, by nature of the business, are large consumers, it’s only
natural for us to implement (green) programs,” says Jennifer Cooke,
spokesperson for McAfee Coliseum and Oakland Arena in Oakland, Calif.
“As a result, we truly see a difference made.”
In May 2005, officials with McAfee Coliseum, home of the Oakland A’s,
replaced their plastic cups with compostable cups, called Ploy Lactic
Acids (PLAs). Depending on attendance, the Coliseum goes through
anywhere between 500,000 and a million cups each year and is the
facility’s largest concession waste product.
The organic material used for the cups is made from corn and is
certified by the Biodegradable Product Institute. The cups turn into 100
percent compost within 30 to 60 days instead of taking months or years
to compost as traditional plastic cups. “The program itself costs a bit
more in labor and supplies, but we have found partners to ‘sponsor’ the
cups to offset the cost,” Cooke says.
The renovated Phoenix Convention Center’s
sustainable design elements include sun shading to minimize solar
impact indoors. Components of the building are at a level below
grade, minimizing the building’s exposure to the elements. Photo
courtesy of HOK.
In addition to the cup program, the
Coliseum Complex in 2004 started recycling bottles and cans, introduced
compostable waste and enhanced the cardboard recycling program. Tree
trimmings and grass clippings are gathered and placed into a separate
recycling debris box, reducing trash by 39.22 tons annually. Bottles and
cans are sorted by hand and placed in a locked storage container until
they’re picked up. Food waste from caterer kitchens is either donated to
area food banks or emptied into special three-yard bins and recycled via
In 1996, officials with the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia began
working with Peco Energy to create an energy-efficient cooling system.
The result was ice thermal storage. During offpeak hours when area
energy use is low, a 20' x 20' room is filled with water and frozen.
That large block of ice is then used during operational hours to cool
the building. The cooling refrigerant goes through a series of pipes
that blows cool air into the offices. “It reduces our energy costs and
limits when we use energy,” says Michael Ahearn, vice president of
The nearly one million-sq.-ft. facility hosts nearly 300 events a year,
including games for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and the NBA’s
Philadelphia 76ers. “It’s a system that works for everyone,” Ahearn
says. “It helps reduce our expenses and saves energy for the rest of the
At the Design Stage
HOK Sport Venue Event has been incorporating environmentally friendly
design concepts for many years. When Denver’s Coors Field was built more
than 10 years ago, they incorporated elements such as waste management,
water and energy conservation and recycled materials into the
construction process, says spokesperson Gina Leo.
Wachovia Center in Philadelphia worked with
Peco Energy to create an energyefficient, ice thermal storage system
for cooling. “It reduces our energy costs and limits when we use
energy,” says Michael Ahearn, vice president of operations. Photo
courtesy of Comcast Spectato.
“Given the large scale of many of our
projects, it’s imperative that we take sustainable design measures into
account during the design phase,” Leo says. “Many of our projects are
large-scale open spaces, so heating and cooling can be difficult. But
that inspires us to find creative, sustainable solutions.”
Leo says that although such programs may cost a bit more to implement
into facilities upfront, they typically pay for themselves in a few
years through built-in energy efficiencies and utility cost savings.
Most recently, HOK has worked toward creating facilities that earn LEED
certification from the USGBC.
Get the LEED Out
The USGBC offers facility designers and operators a guide and a starting
place. The organization’s suggestions range from how to select an
environmentally friendly site to how to recycle. LEED certification
considerations include site selection, water efficiency and irrigation,
energy use, materials and resources that may be recycled and reusable,
and indoor air quality.
“LEED certification is relatively new to sports and performing arts
venues, but it’s growing,” says the USGBC’s Hosken. “Money tends to be a
driving factor — how much it will save down the line versus upfront
Washington Nationals. Hosken is working with HOK in the design
and building of the Washington Nationals baseball stadium and is also
working with developers of the proposed Minnesota Twins new stadium.
“Sports teams have a huge opportunity to educate consumers,” she says.
“A baseball stadium, arena, performing arts center or convention center
is more powerful than a general services building because of its high
profile. By publicizing their efforts, it gets back to the consumer, who
then begins to think about how he can implement environmentally friendly
practices in his life.”
The DC Sports & Entertainment Commission authorized builders of the
Nationals stadium to pursue green design elements for the facility,
which is set to open in 2008. These elements include a sustainable urban
site, transit-oriented design, water conservation and cleanliness, use
of environmentally sensitive materials, energy efficiency, materials
with recycled content, and waste recycling among other measures.
In its renovation of the Phoenix Convention
Center, HOK used construction materials from within a 500-mile
radius to reduce fuel usage. Photo courtesy of HOK.
“Sustainable design is inherent in all
that we do,” says HOK project manager Susan Klumpp. “We’ll be leaving
the site in a much better condition than it was received.”
Phoenix Convention Center. HOK is also seeking LEED certification
for its renovation of the Phoenix Convention Center. The building’s
sustainable design elements include native plants with low-water
requirements; high-efficiency irrigation methods, and heating and
cooling systems with highenergy performance ratings.
University of Connecticut. College facilities are more apt to
build facilities that are environmentally friendly than private or
public athletic or performing arts buildings, Hosken says. The
University of Connecticut’s Burton Family Football Complex and Mark R.
Shenkman Training Center are such projects. While the University of
Connecticut has developed other green designed campus buildings, the
athletic department’s new football training facility is the first
collegiate athletic facility to be LEED certified.
Also designed by HOK, the facility includes green elements such as
infrared heating units to provide a more energy-efficient way of
heating; 7,000 cubic feet of peat excavated from the site to restore and
create wetlands; permeable pavement and bioretention swales around the
facility to help cleanse or renovate storm water and reduce runoff.
“In the past year, we have increased our number of LEED accredited
professionals by 300 percent,” Leo says. “Now every project team has at
least one accredited professional on its team to ensure we incorporate
sustainable design elements into every project.”
When Direct Energy agreed to spend $7 million in June for a 10- year
naming rights agreement with the former National Trade Center in
Toronto, officials agreed to earmark the money for environmental
The Direct Energy Centre has more than one million square feet of space
and is the largest exhibition and convention center in Canada and the
sixth largest in North America. Toronto city leaders developed a concept
plan in 2004 that included environmental initiatives. “There is a legacy
that will be built here,” says Lara Purdy, director of sales and
marketing for Direct Energy Centre.
Outside of the Direct Energy Centre is a 30-story wind turbine that
produces one million kilowatt hours of energy per year. As one of the
more visible examples of the facility’s commitment to reduce emissions
and waste, the turbine also helps to displace some of the harmful
chemicals responsible for smog and acid rain. It moves up to 1,800 tons
of carbon dioxide annually.
Officials recently received approval to install photovoltaic, or solar
panels, to test a program that would generate solar heat. If it’s
successful, Purdy says, they plan to roll out a major program in the
next couple of years that would include a plant to generate one to two
megawatts, the largest in Canada.
Facility officials completed a lighting retrofit at the end of June that
reduced kilowatt hours by about 2.3 million each year and improved light
output. In addition, the exterior of the building and naming signage
uses LED technology to provide high light output but lower energy usage.
“We knew that it would be a moderate up-front cost for LED, but the
long-term energy savings for us was of greater value,” Purdy says.
“Plus, there are no environmental issues with LED since the concept with
neo is that gas leaks into the atmosphere.” Even seemingly everyday
items have been changed to be more earth friendly. All food waste is
sent to a pig farm and nonperishable food overages from the catering
department goes to a local food bank. Each office has a small
wastebasket and recycling bin.
In guest washrooms, there are two bins for waste — one for garbage and
one for hand towels. Stationery and business cards are all printed on
100 percent post-consumer waste recycled printed with vegetable inks.
“The printer was required to be certified so we can ensure that we’re
practicing what we’re preaching,” Purdy says.
The practices of the staff at Direct Energy Centre have even rubbed off
on their clients. Iidex/Neocon Canada, a tradeshow producer for the
interior design community, had a substantial portion of its floor
devoted to green suppliers during its September show. “They see that
we’re being responsible so they’re more responsible,” Purdy says. “They
ask for more recycling bins on the showroom floors and ask their
customers not to waste.
“There’s a benefit. The more energy we conserve, the less we have to
raise our prices.”
is a Houston-based freelance writer. She has more than a decade of
experience writing for newspapers, legal journals, health publications, and
sports, entertainment and retail magazines.